University of Kansas

Many fans have wanted KU to go triple-option. The Jayhawks ran a version of it vs. BC

(For help with this story, I consulted a Division I assistant coach to get his thoughts.)

Whenever Army has a good game in football, I know what’s coming next.

Inevitably, there will be many different KU fans wishing the team had hired a coach who specializes in the triple-option.

Here’s the thing, though: That style is not the only way to create multiple possibilities while taking advantage of how the defense reacts.

A good example came in KU’s 48-24 victory over Boston College on Friday, as the Jayhawks ran a clever run-pass option that gave the team three potential courses of action — and also lots of ways to be right no matter how the Eagles lined up.

Let’s start with the first two alternatives for KU: A run for Pooka Williams or a QB keep for Carter Stanley.

The Jayhawks are running what’s referred to as a “midline” RPO. Essentially, the team is going to leave an interior defensive lineman unblocked, making that guy the quarterback’s responsibility on a post-snap read.

Postsnap-read.png
ACC Network Screenshot

In this case, the defensive tackle crashes toward the back, Williams. The correct read for Stanley, then, is to keep this ball, then run toward the vacated hole around the ACC logo.

Ah ... but KU actually doesn’t run here. That’s because Stanley also was reading the defense pre-snap, seeing immediately that KU had an opportunity on the outside.

So here’s the third part of KU’s RPO triple-option.

9-yard-cushion.png
ACC Network screenshot

KU receiver Kwamie Lassiter is getting plenty of respect in man coverage, with defensive back Nolan Borgersen giving him a nine-yard cushion. Lassiter is running a short hitch route, and Stanley knows that KU should have plenty of open space to complete this pass.

Stanley potentially only has to worry about one player: Boston College’s middle linebacker on the hashmark. Potentially, that defender could flow to the outside on the snap, making him the only Eagle who should concern Stanley.

It’s difficult to tell for sure with the replay, but it appears Stanley decides before the snap he’s going to throw it ... which means he seems to be reading the linebacker here instead of the unblocked defensive end.

When that linebacker comes forward to play a potential run ... checkmate. Stanley knows the throw to Lassiter is going to be wide open, with no risk of any defender disrupting this pass.

Boston College, in essence, is beat by alignment. One way to potentially prevent this would be to reduce the cushion on Lassiter so that short route wouldn’t be as available, while also telling the defensive tackle to crash the quarterback every time. That, hypothetically, would force Stanley to hand this ball off, which would leave Williams to fight for yards on the right side of the line.

For KU, though ... this all is a drastic change from a week ago. The most concerning problem for the Jayhawks, as we discussed then, was the inability for the team to get itself in good numbers situations. The example we talked about — interestingly enough — was another instance where a KU receiver had a nine-yard cushion, yet the playcall had no option of throwing to that player to take advantage.

The proposed solution then was to check out of the run call to a pass. We even discussed KU calling a short route to pick up what would have essentially been a free first down.

KU was able to play better — and smarter — football against Boston College. Defenses loading up against the run and playing off receivers need to pay for that sin, and the Jayhawks’ offensive gameplan allowed for many more on-the-fly adjustments compared to the previous week.

Coaches also put their trust in Stanley, and after not being able to change the play many times against Coastal Carolina, he was given responsibility to switch things up against Boston College based on what he saw both before and after the snap.

This is the result. KU scored 48 points, and more importantly, it flashed a modern offense capable of exposing opponent tendencies.

For this particular play, it was in the form of a triple-option ... with Stanley coming through with the optimal choice.

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Jesse Newell — he’s won an EPPY for best sports blog and previously has been named top beat writer in his circulation by AP’s Sports Editors — has covered KU sports since 2008. His interest in sports analytics comes from his math teacher father, who handed out rulers to Trick-or-Treaters each year.
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